Praying before Mass

If you’ve ever leafed through a Catholic prayer book, you might have stumbled upon various prayers before Mass (see here or here for some examples).  At first glance, these kind of prayers might confirm some of the negative stereotypes about Catholicism—i.e. Catholics are so passive, isn’t Mass rote and repetitive enough? Just an obligation? Why tell people how to pray before Mass too?

But the idea of praying before Mass isn’t about blindly following the instructions in some prayer book. It actually points to the incredible and extraordinary level of participation, every baptized person has in the Mass.

In the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (aka Sacrosanctum Concilium), we read:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism (Para. 14).

This participation isn’t just an option, or something for the spiritual elite. It’s demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. What exactly might that mean?

Rev. Louis Bouyer (1913-2004) brings it into perspective. Participation is what it means to be the People of God. In Liturgical Piety, Bouyer explains that we (small and insignificant as each of us can seem!) are summoned by the Word of God, Jesus Christ. We then hear the Word proclaimed and respond, accepting God’s covenant, proclaimed anew every time we hear Scripture.

But a covenant is not ratified without a sacrificial offering. In the liturgy of the Mass our sacrifices—yes, our quiet struggles, our intentions, our hopelessness, and our whole selves—are united with Christ’s sacrifice on the altar.

Is this a big deal? Absolutely.

While it seems natural, almost instinctive, to desire to pray, such as before  a big presentation or  an exam, I’ll be the first to admit that taking the time to pray in preparation for participating in Mass isn’t usually at the top of my list.

But it should be.

This summer I’ll be trying more and more to always be intentional about preparing for the amazing act of praise, worship, and sacrifice that is our Catholic Mass. It’s my “right and duty” as a baptized child of God.

Copyright © 2013, Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Reiss Vermeulen, M.Div., M.N.A., blogs, ministers in parish life and lay/deacon formation, and serves as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. She and her husband, Luke, have been married since 2011 and live in Ypsilanti, MI with their two young sons.

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